Miscellaneous historic sites in Belgium

Bruges Béguinage

The Princely Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde is the only preserved béguinage (architectural complex which formerly housed beguines, lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world) in Bruges. There are no more Beguines living there, but since 1927 it functions as a convent for Benedictines, founded by canon Hoornaert. In the same year the houses at the west side were also reshaped and ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Belfry of Tournai

The belfry of Tournai is a freestanding bell tower of medieval origin, 72 metres in height with a 256-step stairway. This landmark building is one of a set of belfries of Belgium and France registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Construction of the belfry began around 1188 when King Philip Augustus of France granted Tournai its town charter, conferring among other privileges the right to mount a communal bell to r ...
Founded: 1188 | Location: Tournai, Belgium

Belfry of Mons

The belfry of Mons is one of the more recent among the belfries of Belgium and France. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1999. It is the only one in Belgium that is constructed in baroque style. With an altitude of 87 meters, it dominates the city of Mons, which is constructed on a hill itself. The building was designed by architecture Louis Ledoux. He led the works from 1662 until his death in 16 ...
Founded: 1662-1669 | Location: Mons, Belgium

Grand Béguinage

The Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a well preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen of streets in the south of downtown Leuven. With some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest still existing beguinages in the Low Countries. It is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing students and academic guests. As a community for unmarri ...
Founded: 1234 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Large Béguinage

Beguines are women who could not or did not want to enter a convent, but lived together as a community to support themselves. Around 1560 the beguinage outside the city walls of Mechelen was destroyed. The beguines re-established themselves inside the city walls, where the Large Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) grew up. They bought up existing buildings and built new dwellings, which explains why the Large Beguinage is rather ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Kortrijk Belfry

The belfry (Belfort) of Kortrijk stands in the centre of the Grote Markt and was part of the former cloth hall. The earliest mention of the cloth hall dates back to 1248. The belfry is an imposing square tower, slightly sunk into the market square. This is due to the market being raised throughout the centuries. The view from the tower was mainly determined in 1520 with the reconstruction of the upper section of the tower ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Kortrijk, Belgium

Kortrijk Béguinage

The Saint Elisabeth Béguinage (Begijnhof) from 1238 is a combination of a béguinage square and street and was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998. The Kortrijk béguinage was surrounded by the castle of the Counts of Flanders, the city walls and the St. Martin"s Church Cemetery and is situated between the Church of Our Lady and the St. Martin"s Church. The Kortrijk béguinage ha ...
Founded: 1238 | Location: Kortrijk, Belgium

Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis

The Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis is the oldest botanical garden of Belgium, dating from 1738. The botanical garden has always been linked with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. It first aim was to provide herbs for medical use. Later, the gardens became used for study purposes and they hosted an extensive collection of ornamental plants, cultivated plants that could possibly be used for economic purposes and rare plants ...
Founded: 1738 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Belfry of Namur

The belfry of Namur, also called Saint-Jacob"s Tower was constructed in 1388 as part of the city wall. It was remodeled as a belfry in 1746. It is one of the 56 belfries of Belgium and France classified as the World Heritage Site of the UNESCO. In the beginning, one of the clocks of the Saint-Pierre-au-Château church served as belfry for the citizens of Namur, which is to indicate the time and to announce even ...
Founded: 1388 | Location: Namur, Belgium

Hôtel Tassel

The Hotel Tassel is a town house built by Victor Horta in Brussels for the Belgian scientist and professor Emile Tassel in 1893–1894. It is generally considered as the first true Art Nouveau building, because of its highly innovative plan and its groundbreaking use of materials and decoration. Together with three other town houses of Victor Horta, including Horta"s own house and atelier, it was put on the " ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Charleroi Belfry

Charleroi Belfry is part of the City Hall, designed by architect Joseph André in 1936. It is a perfect blend of Classicism and Art Deco. The 70-metre-high belfry can be accessed by climbing 250 stairs and was built using blue and white stone and bricks. It is crowned with a small bronze tower. The last three levels are reserved for the chambers of the 47 bells forming the carillon. Every fifteen minutes it chimes out a f ...
Founded: 1936 | Location: Charleroi, Belgium

Hôtel van Eetvelde

The Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, administrator of Congo Free State. Together with the Hôtel Tassel, the Hôtel Solvay and his own House and atelier it was put on the "UNESCO World Heritage List" in 2000 as the core of epoch-making urban residences Victor Horta designed before 1900. The visible application of 'industrial' materials such as st ...
Founded: 1895 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Sint-Truiden City Hall

Sint-Truiden’s historical centre includes the town hall (Stadhuis), with a 17th-century tower classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999 (as part of Belfries in Belgium and France). The oldest parts of the building date from the 13th century.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sint-Truiden, Belgium

Tielt Belfry

The centrepiece of the Tielt market square is the belfry, which is the only remnant of the cloth hall. Its carillon was built by the du Mery brothers from Bruges in 1773. It has 36 bells with a total weight of 831 kilograms. It’s the only complete du Mery carillon in Flanders. The belfry is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Founded: 1773 | Location: Tielt, Belgium

Lier Béguinage

Béguinage of Lier is today a walled village in the community and consists of 162 buildings and St. Margaret"s Church. One of the four entrances to the beguinage is a renaissance gate surmounted by a statue of the Holy Begga. Lier Béguinage was founded in the 1258, when three sisters decided found a place for spiritual women. About 200 years later, the beguinage was grown and had a church, hospital and t ...
Founded: 1258 | Location: Lier, Belgium

Hôtel Solvay

The Hôtel Solvay is a large Art Nouveau town house designed by Victor Horta on the Avenue Louise in Brussels. The house was commissioned by Armand Solvay, the son of the wealthy Belgian chemist and industrialist Ernest Solvay. For this wealthy patron Horta could spend a fortune on precious materials and expensive details. Horta designed every single detail; furniture, carpets, light fittings, tableware and even the ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Wolfsschlucht I

Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschlucht I (Wolf"s Gorge) was the codename for one of Adolf Hitler"s military headquarters, located in a farmhouse of the Belgian village of Brûly-de-Pesche, in the municipality of Couvin, close to the French border. It was occupied by Hitler between 6–24 June 1940 while awaiting the conclusion of the Battle of France.
Founded: 1940 | Location: Couvin, Belgium

Belfry of Thuin

The Belfry of Thuin is one of 56 belfries of Belgium and France since 1999 classified world heritage of UNESCO. The tower of the old church of Saint-Théodard, built without foundations on slate rock, is undeniably medieval and must date from the time of the greatest development of the city. Specifically in the period between 1153 and 1164 during visits of Bishop Henri-Leez prince decides to erect a tower for the ch ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Thuin, Belgium

Montaigle Castle Ruins

Montaigle Castle was built in the 14th century, and destroyed by Henry II of France in 1554. It stands on a rocky spur overlooking the valleys of the Molignée and of the Flavion. The site was used during the Late Roman period for a Belgo-Roman fortification. The ruins are open to visitors, convention spaces are also available.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Onhaye, Belgium

Lifts on the Old Canal du Centre

The lifts on the old Canal du Centre are a series of four hydraulic boat lifts near the town of La Louvière, classified both as Wallonia"s Major Heritage and as a World Heritage Site. Along a particular 7km stretch of the Canal du Centre, which connects the river basins of the Meuse and the Scheldt, the water level rises by 66.2 metres. To overcome this difference, the 15.4-metre lift at Houdeng-Goegnies was opened ...
Founded: 1888-1917 | Location: La Louvière, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Foix

The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.

In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.

The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.

From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.

As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).

Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.

Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.